A Conversation with San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed: Part II

The following is Part II of an interview Josh Koehn had with San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed in his City Hall office Friday, Aug. 8. Click to read the first part of their conversation. Excerpts have been edited for grammar and clarity.

Josh Koehn: You did mention that you are probably going to work on the 2016 ballot measure for state pension reform. What’s that like, asking someone for money who’s not family? What it’s like when you call someone up and, ‘Oh, man, I’m not going to ask them for $500, I’m going to ask them for $50,000, $500,000.’

Mayor Chuck Reed: It’s really not all that different asking for $10,000 or $50,000 than it is asking for $500 or $1,000, because you’re talking to different groups of people. If somebody can write that kind of check, it’s obviously significant. But it’s just as hard to ask somebody for $1,000 as it is for $50,000.

You just have to know who you’re talking to.

You got to to know who you’re talking to, what their interest is and what they’re likely to support, because there are a lot of people—even though they might have a billion dollars—they’re not going to write you a check for $1,000, because they don’t care about the issue. Of course, if you’re asking for $500 or $1,000 it’s usually not issue driven. They’re doing it because they like you.

You get the legacy question a lot, I’m sure, especially now with this being the last year (in office). I’m not so concerned about what your legacy is right in this one moment, but 10 years from now, 15-20 years from now. How do you think history will look back at your administration?

There’s three things that I think are significant enough to stand the test of time and be significant 10 years from now. One is saving the city from insolvency and the decisions we had to make in 2011, all the things we’ve done there. Now, 20 years from now, maybe the fact that we had troubles won’t be significant. Buy that’s one category. All the fiscal reforms—and pension reform is only part of that—to save the city from a disaster. Second, the open government reforms, which we’re just about to codify in ordinance and resolutions and that will be in place in front of the council in two or three weeks. … The open government reforms and sunshine stuff, it’s a combination of the Reed Reforms and the ethic reforms and a whole bunch of things. There are probably 75 different provisions all together. And the third category is economic development. Time will tell if we were successful in keeping Silicon Valley the innovation center of the world. The work that I’ve done in that, I think, is important. But we’ll see if we were successful or not. A lot of places in the world would like to take away our innovation. The state of California and federal government don’t make it easier. They’re making it harder. And they may have sown the seeds of destruction with some of the current policies on immigration, for example. Things like that have really undercut Silicon Valley.

Is there anything you look back in hindsight you would have said (in an interview), or regretted saying or wish you would have phrased differently? I know one that a lot of people comment about is that “gravy train” line.

Oh, yeah. Sure. That one is one it would have been better if I hadn’t used it, which is what I told the cops. It was not received the way it was intended. And I’m responsible for how my words are received as well as how I intend them. So, yeah, that one. But in the course of god only knows how many political campaigns and pieces, if I only had one bad choice of words, I figure that’s pretty good. Because I had many opportunities to say something to offend somebody. But I’ve been pretty good about not saying things. And I don’t talk to people when I’m angry.

I think that’s pretty impressive to have microphones in your face and be making public comments and to only be able to look back at one time in eight years.

Maybe you should ask Michelle (McGurk, spokesperson for the mayor). She probably has a list of ‘what the mayor meant to say.’

Michelle McGurk: I think the one thing that was taken out of context and run with by the unions was the (unfunded liability) projections of where the pensions—

Oh, the $650 million?

I don’t regret having said it. It was true.

McGurk: But the fact that somebody doesn’t understand math, and how the financial projections work and all of that, I think that’s one of the bigger challenges.

They would still fight you on that, saying that $650 million was always a bloated overstatement.

That’s what they say. That’s how they characterize it. The grand jury looked at it and thought it was a fine use of information.

You can’t tell that to NBC, either.

They can say whatever they want, but I don’t regret saying it because it was true, properly qualified and all that sort of stuff. … The other thing is this was all done in the context of a political campaign, it was the 2012 campaign. So for a year, nobody thought anything  about that statement until they suddenly decided they could try to make something out of it in the course of a political campaign. I forget which ballot measure it was a run up to, Measure B, I guess. We polled during that time and you know what the public thought about that statement?

Probably nothing.

Nothing. They didn’t care. ‘The mayor exaggerated this and said that.’ They didn’t care. It made no difference to the voters.

$650 million, $430 million—I mean, there’s a big difference and at the same time it’s a huge problem regardless of which number you want to use.

It made no difference to the voters. I’m happy they spent all their time and energy on something that didn’t matter to the voters.

I was going to ask you who was the most worthless council member since you’ve been around here. I figure you wouldn’t want to answer that one.

One of the things I learned from a former Air Force general was, ‘Never tell a lie but don’t blab the truth.’ I was telling my Air Force Academy buddies, ‘The never tell a lie part, that’s easy. But don’t blab the truth, that’s really hard.’

Josh Koehn is a former managing editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley.

23 Comments

  1. I doubt, based on his track record, that Chuck thinks it is really hard not to blab the truth. For instance, not one nugget of truth in this “interview”.

    • Joe let’s cut Josh and Chuck some slack here. Chuck for all intents and purposes does not have to do an interview with anyone (although with rumored relations to the Merc, he might have more bias to do one there) It might not be the answers we all want to hear (Like I’m sure all the labornista’s want to hear Chuck apologizing) but it is what it is.

      And good for Josh for getting the interview.

  2. “If you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it, and you will even come to believe it yourself.”
    – Rufas Reed

  3. Mayor Reed, history will not look kindly on your legacy as Mayor. You will be remembered for 2 things: the destruction of the formerly best police department in the United States, and your utter incompetence and inability in the handling of the A’s situation, as well as squandering tens of millions of tax payer dollars in your failed attempt to get the A’s to move to San Jose.

    • OBSERVATION If I may ask for some help, can you or anyone else here point me to a source concerning the money spent on trying to get the A’s down here in San Jose and the measure B statistics that were not accurate. Thank You it will help.

        • The city has spent Millions drying to defend Measure B ( most of which has already been ruled Unconstitutional) AND the city is also on the hook for attorney fee’s for the other side. Millions have been lost , due to experienced(trained) officers leaving for better , greener pastures. training monies are irrecoverable and still growing. This Mayor loves to spew exaggerations , falsehoods and flat out lies. he brags of saving $25 million dollars in pension reform, Big Deal! City workers offered a proposal that would have saved the city $500 Million Dollars in Guaranteed saving ( any shortages would have come from the workers side) inside of 5 years. Now , would have been something to brag about. This insanely arrogant , elitist and smug Mayor has decimated public safety and destroyed San Jose’s once proud standing. It has become a laughing stock. It went from being the city to work for , to the city to be from.

      • Rufas claims $25M has been saved by Measure B, which is still not even implemented. One City department alone has overtime costs in the realm of $19M… not to mention other departments AND the cost of lawyers.

        The reality is that employees of San Jose have left due to the threat of Measure B taking another 16% of salary plus other cuts to compensation. This exodus of employees had lead to massive overtime and extreme mistrust of City leaders.

  4. There is one STANDOUT portion of Reed’s Answer to JK’s Legacy Question that is so informative and so instructive as it lays bare for all the world (which in SJI’s case is about 37 readers) what Reed’s true legacy IS!!!!

    “…Second, the open government reforms, which we’re just about to codify in ordinance and resolutions and that will be in place in front of the council in two or three weeks. … The open government reforms and sunshine stuff, it’s a combination of the Reed Reforms and the ethic reforms and a whole bunch of things. There are probably 75 different provisions all together…” – Mayor Chuck Rufus Reed

    That quote (if reported accurately by JK) confirms Reed’s legacy in his own words as San Jose’s own resident BAG OF WIND!

    Why? Reed has been Mayor for nearly 8 years! He ran his mayoral campaign touting “Reed Reforms, open government reforms, Sunshine Reforms….” He can’t hardly speak to this day (as evidenced by this quote) without mentioning them… How many times have we heard about these great and wondrous gifts to political and governmental ethics!!! So often that like idiots we believed that they were codified, passed and enacted into law and were the guiding principles of San Jose City Government from the earliest days of Reed’s mayorship!!!

    Now we learn that “…a whole bunch of things…, probably 75 different provisions all together” are ONLY NOW BEING CODIFIED “… will be in place in front of the council in two or three weeks.”

    Great timing Chuck! You have some nerve to only codify and submit the “reforms” for passage now so that your colleagues and successors might be held accountable to a standard you weren’t willing to subject yourself to for the last 8 years!!! How anyone of your allies on the council look to you as a “leader” says so much about their own character in light of this stunning revelation!!!

    VOTERS TAKE NOTE!!!

  5. What a bafoon Reed has turned out to be. Cortese will be same way. One of Reed’s biggest problems was/is his staff. Worst staff in the history of San Jose.

  6. Chuck Reed (Mayor Transparency, if we can possibly ingest enough hallucinogenics to project his legacy as does he), has concocted himself a truly magical mystery tour with his $650 million dollar justifiability show.

    Consider: Reed insists it was true, but his propaganda minister says it was taken “out of context” and opines that the people who complained about it “didn’t understand math” or how “financial projections work.” In order to believe this we have to accept that:

    — The figure was produced by a professional actuarial — it wasn’t. The only evidence of it being true is Reed’s insistence that it was.
    — There exists a “context” in which a made up figure is better than one arrived at by professionals — there isn’t, that’s why actuarial firms exist.
    — The math supporting the figure confused those who disagreed with it — it didn’t, those disagreeing with it included the actuarial firms hired at taxpayer expense. They were not confused.
    — Chuck Reed understands how financial projections work — he doesn’t, as proved by the current and projected pension obligations, and by the Grand Jury report where he demonstrated his administration understands financial projections the way Chicken Little understood forecasting the future — scream “the sky is falling” and create mass hysteria.

    Here is the link to that Grand Jury report:
    http://www.scscourt.org/court_divisions/civil/cgj/2012/pension.pdf

    What you will read there is this: “The Grand Jury learned that a large set of assumptions factor into any actuarial valuation and many of these assumptions have complex interdependencies with one another. The actuarial valuation itself is a rigorous, precise mathematical calculation based upon these assumptions.”

    The Grand Jury, using testimony (risk-free) as opposed to actuarial reports (upon which professional reputations stand), concluded that if you cast enough doubt on enough assumptions, and then twist them all together, you can justify just about any financial outcome. (Using that method one could’ve adjusted the assumptions so as to fully fund the pension in five years.)

    But since the mayor brought the GJ report to our attention, read what it said in its conclusions about the unfunded pension liabilities:

    This (stock market) underperformance is the largest contributor to the Cities’ combined unfunded liability of over $7B.

    Got that? The pension crisis is primarily due to the stock market, not the greedy employees of Chuck Reed’s wet dreams. Now, I ask you, how transparent has he been about that?

      • This P.O.S. preached “sunshine reform” and “open Government” but did most of his dealings in the shadows . seems like only every 5th word had any truth to it

  7. Goodbye Chuck and take Sam, Vice mayor, Pete, and PO with you so we can start to rebuild this city. And I can go on with some current members who are taking free trip across the world to study bike lanes on our dime, what a joke.

  8. Save the City from insolvency! What a hoax! So “pension reform” which purported saves the City $25 million a year several years later prevented the City from bankruptcy. Does anyone think San Jose was ever close to qualifying for bankruptcy protection. There has never been any evidence of that.

    As for bad choices of words, calling the City employees cancer was the final straw for me, especially after we agreed to a 13% paycut. I couldn’t continue to work for a man who would stoop so low.

    Anyone who continues to believe this tea party nut is a fool.

  9. Save the City from insolvency! What a hoax! So “pension reform” which purported saves the City 25 million a year several years later prevented the City from bankruptcy. Does anyone think San Jose was ever close to qualifying for bankruptcy protection. There has never been any evidence of that. What enabled the City to balance its budget was the huge reduction in its payroll through the greatest paycut that any California public work force ever agreed to and massive layoffs.

    As for bad choices of words, calling the City employees cancer was the final straw for me, especially after we agreed to a 13% paycut. I couldn’t continue to work for a man who would stoop so low.

    Anyone who continues to believe this tea party nut is a fool.

  10. This arrogant , elitist, lying, cheating and thieving Mayor loves to throw around ” We are saving $25 Million dollars” . BIG DEAL ! Compare that to the $500 Million ( Guaranteed) that could have been save had he agreed to the proposal offered by city workers . This Corrupt Mayor continues to stick with $650 Million dollar pension debt , even thou it was proven to really be about $230 Million dollars . The Pension debt is no more than 10% of San Jose’s TOTAL budget yet it is to blame for San Jose’s woe’s ??? How does that make sense when the combined debt of the Airport and RDA is roughly $ 7 BILLION Dollars ! Get real . Josh please consider another line of work because this interview/conversation is Horrible

  11. TypIcal passive-aggressive attitude. Say something extremely offensive – and it IS offensive to tell a room full of police officers preparing to head out to the streets for their 10 hour shift that they are on the gravy train – then blaming them for taking it wrong when they are offended. “It was not received the way it was intended.” It was intended as an insult, and it was received correctly.

  12. I hope Dave Cortese and his campaign start going on the offensive that a vote for Liccardo will be the death knell of the SJPD, and a continuance of all the other failed polices of Reed. Cortese’s campaign seems to be rather quiet, while Liccardo is given all the free publicity he wants to spew in the Mercury. I think Cortese’s campaign really needs to go on a major offensive soon to expose the crackpot ideas of Liccardo. The election is right around the corner.